Over 78 percent vote in Bengal polls fourth phase (Intro Roundup)

Kolkata, April 25 (IANS) Amid sweltering heat, sporadic violence and allegations of electoral malpractice, over 78 percent of the 1.08 crore voters on Monday exercised their right to franchise across 49 constituencies bordering Kolkata in the fourth phase of the West Bengal assembly elections.

Polling took place in the two districts of Howrah (16 seats) and North 24 Parganas (33 constituencies). Balloting began at 7 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m.

“A total of 78.05 percent turnout was recorded till 5 p.m. — 79.16 percent in North 24 Parganas and 75.46 percent in Howrah,” chief electoral officer Sunil Kumar Gupta told media persons here.

Three polling officers in North 24 Parganas were removed. Two presiding officers in Baranagar and Minakha constituencies got the axe for “not being impartial”, while a polling officer from Baranagar was removed for “wrong declaration” after he was found to be an electorate from the same constituency.

Gupta said the poll panel received 4,173 complaints till 6 p.m., of which 4,023 were disposed of.

Under expenditure monitoring measures, the EC seized cash amounting to Rs.54.36 lakh and 7.18 lakh litres of liquor, Gupta said.

The commission lodged 110 expenditure-related cases during the poll day. A total of 84 people were arrested in this connection only, and 1,928 for violating excise norms, Gupta said.

Police registered 11 specific cases and arrested 229 people — 22 in specific cases and 207 under preventive sections, said Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma.

Over 1.08 crore voters across 12,481 polling stations, including 27 auxiliary booths, were eligible to decide the fate of 345 candidates, including 40 women.

A police case was registered against BJP’s star candidate Roopa Ganguly for assaulting a woman voter and preventing her from casting her ballot.

Ganguly, contesting from North Howrah, alleged “rampant” booth-capturing and bogus voting and faced angry protests from alleged Trinamool Congress activists. She was heckled allegedly by Trinamool activists.

Her Trinamool rival, retired international cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla denied the charge, and accused her of influencing voters and disrupting the poll process.

Tanmoy Bhattacharya, the Communist Party of India-Marxist candidate from North Dum Dum, sustained injuries when alleged Trinamool activists pelted stones at his car. Four people were arrested in this connection, Sharma said.

Eight people were arrested for heckling CPI-M candidate from Barrackpur Debasish Bhaumik in Titagarh.

He also said two people were arrested in connection with the attack on a three-year-old girl and her family members in Halishahar on Sunday night.

According to the family, several masked men entered their house at night and attacked them with sticks and bamboos, and warned them against casting their votes. Unfazed by the attack, the toddler’s mother on the day cast her vote.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the Election Commission, accusing central forces of “torturing” the electorate.

CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra complimented the people for voting in large numbers despite the obstructions, threats and violence “orchestrated” by the Trinamool.

He said the central forces and the Election Commission were more active on Monday than in the earlier phases.

“Undesirable things like driving out opposition polling agents, attempts to capture booths and obstruct voters happened in close to one percent of the booths.”

A total of 672 companies of central forces and 23,000 state police personnel were deployed to ensure free and fair polls in the two districts in view of past political clashes and poll-related disturbances.

In the Sundarbans region, equipped with ham radio and solar lights, officials went the extra mile to ensure that the electorate gets a chance to exercise their voting rights.



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